Archives

trip prep madness

Prep: Immunizations… the cost of health.

In preparing for travels down to Central and South America, I tend to play it on the “safe” side.  I am guessing it’s overkill, that the countries I am visiting aren’t as great of a risk as they once were, but I went to a local clinic (Healthy Traveler in Pasadena) for inoculations anyway.  The doctor was laid back yet very informative and the assistant was quick (what more can you ask for when you are getting shots):

Here’s the list of vaccines:

Yellow Fever (mosquito transmission) –  $110

Hepatitis A (personal contact or contaminated food/water) – $84

Hepatitis B (personal contact, most often in hospitals) – $79 x 2 (booster) = $158

Typhoid (contaminated food or water) – $86

Tetanus/Diphtheria (germs in cuts) – $59

Pills (for the just in case scenarios):

Malaria (mosquito transmission) –

Giardia (gonna happen at some point  – antibiotic) – $4

And the Consultation fee – $44

Bottom line: $545

(That hurt worse than the needle.)

10 days… 1522 miles of bugs, dust and grime… and barely breaking in a Klim suit.

Some companies know how to do it right.  Klim (as in climb) gear is one of them.  A small family operated company out of Idaho, they seem know what people like when it comes to adventure gear: waterproof, breathable and durable.

Read more →

The shift in the air.

There is a shift, like when you feel the morning crispness of fall air and realize that summer is over.  This shift happens for me each time I prepare.  The words “What the fuck am I doing?” no longer repeat over and over in my head.  They are replaced with, “What are the last things I need to do to get the fuck out of here?”

It’s a mixed bag: part letting go of all that is in my daily life, part believing that I am actually going to go, and part feeling ready to leave it all behind.

When I was originally thinking about this trip, I had planned for a May 2013 departure and travel for a full year.  Then the realization came that I would not be any further along in my preparation 2 months away from my current departure in November than I would two months out from a spring departure.  Time is relative.  Procrastination is even more relative.  Maybe I like the mad rush of it all at the end.  Maybe its part of the excitement building.  Maybe I just don’t believe it until it happens.

I woke this morning feeling more ready than any time I have since I announced my all too soon, yet not soon enough departure.  It’s time to prepare.  It’s time to go.

Its a Bake Sale (ok, not really) but help fund my kickstarter project!!!

I can’t seem to get the embedded content to work, so here it is in the old fashioned way…

just a click away:

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/alisonswanderland/alisons-wanderland-a-pan-american-motorcycle-adven

The Body Project, Part I: a jump start

With the realization of a nearing departure, I need to use these 15 weeks and really kick my preparation into gear.  There is still much to be done: research of visiting countries, outfitting the bike and training the body as well as the mind for the endurance of long distance, long term travel.

To knock one thing off my list of projects to start, I joined the YMCA.  I have never been one for gyms since I have a regular, yet casual, yoga practice. But I need more; my body needs more.  Or more specifically, I need someone else to help push me to do more…and that’s what teachers are for.  If I have the time and there is a class on the schedule, I am in it.  Sculpting for strength and muscle building, step for cardio and coordination, pilates for core, yoga for flexibility and alignment, and dance for the fun of it.

In addition to exercise, I am starting a transition to whole food eating, and including more meat to get used to what I will most often find on the road.

Weight and measurements were taken in hopes of sharing good results before I leave. Already one week into it and there is a delight in the soreness in my muscles.  I can’t help but I feel great and ready continue the effort.

So, here starts my body project…

Taking time for love… (2 Cheers)

Part I:

As I find myself tangled in the madness of trip planning, motorcycle preparation and how to file my daily life as I know it away for 6 months, I have to remember to stop and take time for the things in my life that I love…

Amidst the activities I found to bring me the most happiness – motorcycling, exploring, writing and photographing – I recognize that it wouldn’t be much of anything without the people who make the day to day worthwhile.

So, this is a big cheers to the wonderful people in my life: be they close friends, even closer friends, my family, those I have worked beside, and those I have met on the road… Thank you for all those moments which make life just that much sweeter… xo

Part II:

When talking with a friend the other day, I laughed at listening to her say, “I don’t remember what you were like before you were an adventurer,” and, really, I can’t either.  It is such a fitting way of life; I can’t believe I wasn’t always this way.  Recently, in a book I was reading, The Happiness Project, one line in particular stuck with me: you can choose what you do, but you can’t choose what you like to do.  An amusing realization, since at times I have watched other people do things and wanted to have the same fun doing those things, but in reality, it just isn’t as much fun for me.  However, this is all part of the love of life: going through the discovery phase of what brings us joy. Even at 32, I am still coming into my own.  So, cheers to figuring out the things in life we love, the people we love and doing what makes us happy.

Taking chances – an Adventure Announcement:

As we stood beside racks of worn leather jackets and rows of broken-in boots, we found ourselves on the topic of taking chances.  We agreed that we would not be where we are today if we hadn’t.  Chatting with Jessica at Yellow Devil was a reminder that when it all starts to line up, it’s the right time to take chances. I might not know exactly where I am headed, it might be time to step out of my comfort zone, but at the risk of greater happiness, it is worth doing.

I have struggled with how to present the matter, all the while quietly and stealthily working toward the goal.  There is some sense of hesitation because of all the what-ifs and how-tos and how-nots and all the obstacles that jumble my head on occasion.  I feel like it’s a coming out party more than an announcement, somewhat because this decision affects more than just me.  The trickle-down aftermath is what I grow cautious of… my family is proving to be supportive, most of my friends already know of the idea, and now know when, and soon I will find out how this affects my work as the months unfold.  Yet, even with some uncertainty, I kept coming around to one main question:  why wait a year?  So, I’m not.

This Fall 2012, I am leaving (that’s right, everything packed up in little boxes or sold) Los Angeles, CA and motorcycling (on my trusty KLR through pavement and dirt) south to Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego, Argentina a.k.a “The end of the earth.”

I have 4 months to make arrangements… I invite you to watch the ticker count down the days and share in all my excitement and anticipation and trepidation.   Already, this adventure is like no other I have taken.

I include this picture from spring 2010 of my first ride taking the KLR on a dirt trail.  I didn’t know what to expect that day. I just listened to suggestions and tried my best.  Had I not thrown the bike down where I stood, I would have headed over the edge with the 400lb beast. But without taking a chance and testing my abilities with something I had never tried, or setting out to meeting people I had never spoken to, I wouldn’t have learned to trust in what opportunities lay ahead.  It opened my world.  I never imagined that day was the beginning of preparation for this next adventure.

Gear in a box.

I returned home from WMRS and a box was happily waiting on my doorstep. The kind folks at Scorpion EXO sent me a fantastic set of their long distance adventure gear. Luckily, for my larger frame, the jacket, pants and gloves fit terrifically.  Sometimes it’s hard to prepare for rain and cold weather in the 95 degree heat of Los Angeles, but I am excited to try out the armor as I head north to cooler temperatures.

Maps.

Maps. Preparation. Planning. Destinations.

I place upon the walls of my living room maps of the places I want to visit.  Each day I stare at them.  I make notes of points of interest.  I research recommended routes. I scan pages of books to reference on the road.  I attempt to plan.  I gather as much information ahead of time as my head and my iPhone will handle.

But, planning only goes as far as my fingertips.  Sitting on the couch, I can lay out my wants and desires, but it is no match for experiences.  Sometimes it is a feeling in my gut that makes me take a detour or an unexpected change in weather that has me turn a different direction.  Any which road I end up taking, all I can do is listen to myself and make the most of it. Many have told me its not the destination that matters, its how you get there and what you enjoy along the way.  But if you don’t know where you want to be, how can you get there? How do you know which direction to point yourself in? I realize that unforeseen encounters can sometimes be best ones, but sometimes its up to you to make it happen. And its all part of the adventure.

 

Bear mis-steaks

Bear advice from Dad: if you come upon a bear, don’t run.  Don’t look at it in the eye. Make noise. Look big. Play dead.  No, don’t play dead. Climb a tree if you have to, and by all means, if you are carrying a juicy, tenderloin steak, drop it.

Upon informing my Dad that I am motorcycling to Alaska this summer, he was very adamant about lending me two things for my trip: a fishing pole. and a shotgun.  The first I can understand, it’s useful, I can feed myself with it instead of eating out of a can.  The latter though, was a harder sale. His biggest concern for his daughter is bears. Big, brown, killer grizzly bears.  Throughout the rest of the evening, the topic popped up.  What to do if I encounter a bear? (See advice above.) Where could I mount a shotgun on my bike? Will I be safer in populated areas or wilderness? How many grizzly bears are there in Alaska? How prevalent are attacks?  So I decided to research the statistics as well as ask some locals (I was in bear country for a week) instead of just speculate.

Some bear basics (I am focusing on grizzlies known to be more aggressive.) Noted by distinguished hump on back and longer snout.  They live mostly in Canada, Alaska, and NW US.  Funny enough, the grizzly bear is depicted on the California flag, but the last one to exist in that state was shot in 1922.  They are omnivores. Plants make up 80-90% of their diet.

According to Wikipedia, total fatal attacks by bears (black and grizzly) since 2000 is 26.
Attacks in the NW territories I am visiting this summer: 13 (one was a bear that turned on its trainer, so I’m not counting that)…that leaves 12 deaths by bear in the wilderness in the past 11 years.
Aptly, but sadly, two days after this discussion, a man was killed and wife maimed by a grizzly bear while hiking in Yellowstone National Park wilderness. Most common reason for attack is a mother defending her cubs, as was the case described above. So, rule no. 1, definitely Do NOT get in the way of a mother and her cubs.

While helping me work on my bike, I get advice from a fellow gun enthusiast… He pulled out a double barrel shotgun from the safe, dismantled it in 3 pieces and showed me how easy it was to stash on my bike.  He can reassemble, load and shoot 8 rounds in 10 seconds if something were charging.  He knows his gun; He’s trained himself to shoot like that. What’s my reaction time like?  I don’t know since I’ve never shot a shotgun.  His suggestion: just go with bear spray.  Works on more than just unsavory bears.

The next day I find myself working in Whistler, Canada, so I decided to ask a local (who has come upon them on the trails) what he thinks about bear etiquette.   His #1 suggestion…don’t eat where you sleep. And when you are in bear country, make noise, be big, drop anything (hat, jacket, goods, etc.) sometimes their curiosity gets the better of them.  He also recommended bear mace or bear bangers (mimics the sound of a shotgun).

What do the experts say to do if you encounter a bear: (the above was all fairly good advice)

Do not run, back away slowly if permitting.

Bears do bluff charge, sometimes works to hold your ground.

Go ahead and climb, but bears have been known to climb trees also, so find one that is over 33ft tall…

As a last resort…Pepper spray (at least 2% capsicum)…only works at close range, 5-15ft, (do I really want to get that close?) and as long as its not raining.
If you do come in contact, playing dead reduces mauling time…curl up and cover up (keep pack on) vulnerable areas.

So, with this knowledge, do I feel set to go into the Wild? About as much as I did before, and I am going to do it anyway.